By Michael Wilbon
Friday, April 24, 2009
I hate the NFL draft. Okay, it's not the draft I hate, actually. It's the numbingly excessive hype, the mock drafts, the same-day declaration of winners and losers, the five hours it takes to get through the first round, the pontification, the overstatement. In the last five years I've probably watched a total of five minutes of the draft. For me, it's become must-not-see TV.
But I'll watch a little bit of the draft tomorrow for the sole purpose of seeing whether the Washington Redskins will continue to play Fantasy Football and draft Mark Sanchez. It's akin to watching a NASCAR race to see an accident. It's become a perverse pleasure. The Redskins, it seems, ought to be in the business of finding the next American Idol, not professional football.
Sanchez, the Southern Cal quarterback for less than two full seasons, is the most recent piece of eye candy Dan Snyder just has to have. Last month it was Jay Cutler. It's always somebody -- anybody other than the guy the Redskins already have. If Sanchez was in his fourth year with the Redskins and making steady but unspectacular progress and Jason Campbell was a strong-armed draft prospect, Snyder would be ready to throw Sanchez overboard for Campbell -- and then Sanchez would be the fed-up quarterback threatening to demand a trade.
Don't get me wrong, Sanchez is said by everybody who knows about these things to be an outstanding prospect, though the failure rate for underclassmen quarterbacks is very high, according to the ESPN draft master himself, Mel Kiper Jr.
Kiper is about the only person I trust to talk to about the draft because he has no vested interest and will actually tell you the truth as he sees it. Anyway, Kiper says of Sanchez: "He has a good enough arm, is super accurate rolling left or right, shows excellent feet in the pocket and has a high football acumen. He's a born leader who plays the game with a great deal of enthusiasm."
So, Sanchez is a fine prospect. He's also handsome and charismatic and looks good sitting in Il Mulino. But it'll cost the Redskins at least a couple of picks to move up high enough to take him, which might mean in the top three of the draft. Kiper also points out that Ben Roethlisberger is the only underclassman to excel at quarterback in recent drafts. So, Sanchez ain't can't-miss.
And here's the more important thing: The Redskins, last I checked, need other things. Lots of other things. They need at least one tackle, could certainly use a strong-side linebacker. Brian Cushing, an outside linebacker, might be a USC prospect of greater value to the Redskins. The team needs to replace the departed Marcus Washington, and Rocky McIntosh's knee is problematic. But, of course, Cushing is not famous. Possibly, the Redskins could trade down and get Cushing and Oklahoma right tackle Phil Loadholt. But trading down? Nothing glamorous about that.
So, I'll watch a few minutes of the first round to see if the Redskins do what they usually do, which is to say, swing for the fences. If Dan Snyder owned a baseball team he'd have nine cleanup hitters.
The smart thing to do would be trade down, come away with two projected starters, one at right tackle and one at linebacker, and if possible, add a pick that can be used to trade for a veteran wide receiver, which might actually demonstrate a commitment to Campbell and all the work he's done over the last year with Jim Zorn. Apparently, there's nothing sexy about simply going to work and getting better or establishing some continuity. That's not the Fantasy Football way.
But the Redskins don't care a whole lot about adding draft picks, just spending them. Just a year ago they wasted a second-round pick on Jason Taylor, a pick that ought to translate into a three- or four-year starter in the NFL.
Vinny Cerrato said, "The way it turned out, you wish Jason would have stayed healthy." Is there no anticipation at Redskins Park that a 35-year-old veteran is unlikely to stay healthy for very long?
So, they gave up too much to get Jason Taylor. They gave up even more to get Jason Campbell, not that those picks are important now as they plot ways to dump him. So, why not spend a couple of No. 1s and start over again with another quarterback. In the Redskins' draft world, franchise quarterbacks grow on trees. If they don't win a Super Bowl in two years, hell, just get another one. All it'll cost is a couple of No. 1s.
Hey, I'm not complaining. The Redskins could make the first round of the draft fairly exciting. I might have to watch for more than 20 minutes if the Redskins are scrambling up the board to get Sanchez away from the Jets, dropping No. 1 picks like $20 tips to a maitre d'.
If it's smart use of the draft you want, stick with the Pittsburgh Steelers or the New England Patriots. If it's entertainment in prime time on a Saturday night, the Redskins are the team for you.